NEK law firm: Feds may be monitoring phones and computers

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(Host) A Northeast Kingdom law firm has warned its clients that the federal government may be monitoring its phones and computer equipment.

A lawyer at the firm represents a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This summer, the lawyer suspected that his phone had been tapped. He recently discovered that his office computer was also hacked into.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) St. Johnsbury attorney Robert Gensburg normally specializes in tax and estate law. But the veteran attorney has also volunteered to represent clients in Afghanistan and at the U-S prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

He makes frequent calls to the Middle East. And problems with his phone line surfaced this summer. A Verizon technician investigated and concluded that two lines were somehow crossed.

(Sleigh) “We then though it prudent to have a forensic examination of his office computer network conducted.”

(Dillon) David Sleigh, Gensburg’s lawyer, explains what happened next.

(Sleigh) “And the forensic examiner informed us that the computer had what he referred to as a backdoor infection that has the capacity to pump out large volumes of documents and emails, and has full capabilities of complete remote control.”

(Dillon) The backdoor program also completely disabled the computer’s anti-virus software. So, with the computer network compromised, Gensburg’s firm told its clients that it can’t guarantee that its communications are confidential.

In a letter from the firm, the three partners say they believe the federal government is responsible.

Sleigh says the investigation continues, and that there may be a more innocent explanation for the computer tampering, such as an infection through routine email.

But given what happened with his client’s phone line, he remains concerned.

(Sleigh) “So we’ve got at least two hard pieces of evidence and we’ve got a brilliant lawyer with an absolutely untarnished reputation for deliberation and caution. You know, to me, those things are starting to add up.”

(Dillon) The problems with Gensburg’s phone first came to light during a Public Service Board hearing last month. The board has opened an investigation into whether Verizon and AT&T compromised consumer privacy by releasing records to the federal government without a search warrant.

The phone companies — and the government — are trying to stop the investigation.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


AP Photo/Alden Pellet

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